Preventing extinctions

Hanneline Smit-Robinson and Robin Colyn travelled to Vancouver to attend and present papers and posters at the Water Society Congress and International Ornithological Congress. Carina Coetzer and Sakhile Mthalane completed the monthly surveys at Ingula. Carina also met with several stakeholders in the Wilge Stewardship project, and started analyses of all recorded bird sightings of staff on Ingula to obtain a historical perspective. Linda van den Heever had a Skype meeting with Chris Kelly (Wildlife Act) to discuss continued monitoring of lead levels in KwaZulu-Natal’s vulture populations. Linda also updated various databases with data obtained during last week’s Black Stork survey in northern Kruger National Park. Melissa Whitecross and Hanneline held a Skype meeting with Keith Valentine (Rockjumper Bird Tours) and Gisela Ortner about the Kruger Bird and Wildlife Challenge Fundraiser 2019. Melissa collated the data collected on last week’s Black Stork Survey in the north of Kruger National Park. Melissa contacted Forestry South Africa to discuss working with them and their affiliated plantation owners in northern KwaZulu-Natal on Southern Banded Snake Eagles. Melissa contacted AfriCam about installing a live camera into one of the White-winged Flufftail wetlands.

Renewable energy

On Monday Sam Ralston met with Andrew Pearson, specialist avifaunal consultant, to discuss a number of wind farm projects he is working on. Later in the week Sam met with Savannah Environmental, Birds and Bats Unlimited and Atlantic Renewable Energy Partners to discuss the proposed Namas and Zonnequa Wind Farms. Sam also lodged a formal complaint of non-compliance against a wind farm to encourage the implementation of measures to address avoidable impacts on threatened species.



Landscape Analysis & Project Development

Dale Wright held Skype meetings with a colleague from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University and another from Nelson Mandela University to discuss potential research topics for privately protected areas.

Wilge Stewardship Project

Ernst Retief assisted Carina Coetzer to arrange a meeting with landowners to setup a landowners association for the Wilge Stewardship Protected Environment. This meeting will take place in the first week of September. Dale Wright worked on a draft project concept note to submit to various donors for funding for the Grasslands stewardship projects.

Estuary IBA Conservation Project

Giselle Murison had further Skype meetings with riparian landowners at the Klein River estuary to review a template Management Agreement for a co-managed Nature Reserve for their properties. She visited a riparian farmer at the Berg River estuary project site to discuss the overall process for declaring a Protected Environment for their property and to review the “intention to declare” documents. The West Coast District Municipality Coastal Committee meeting was held on Wednesday and included feedback from all the key municipalities and Estuary Advisory Forums. Giselle spent much of the rest of the week finalising the botanical and bird species lists for properties entering into the stewardship programme at the Berg River estuary, and reworking the draft of a funding proposal for an Estuary Conservation Programme in the Western Cape.

Mistbelt Grassland and Forest Conservation Project

The necessary memos and associated documents were drafted for the long-awaited declaration of Roelton Nature Reserve (Blue Swallow site near Ixopo, KZN). The memo and associated documents for the various Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife committees’ approval has been drafted and this will be submitted for their September meeting.   In response to Mr Jerome Mitchell’s request, Conservation Outcomes developed and submitted a detailed proposal for the possible declaration of his property on the Umgeni plateau. As mentioned in previous reports, Mr Mitchell’s property is a critically important piece of grassland and wetland area, forms part of the Umgeni river source and is home to several pairs of Wattled Crane amongst other key species. Mr Mitchell has responded very positively, and we have set a date to meet with him to discuss and finalise details on 28 August 2018.  A Skype meeting between BirdLife South Africa, Conservation Outcomes and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife was held to discuss a coordinated response to the Smithfield Dam EIA report, and in particular, to the avifauna and offset studies. It is important that responses to this from the various organisations are the same so that we are united in our response. The meeting agreed that engaging positively with the developers for an outcome which will lead to a conservation gain is needed and not to strongly oppose the development, probably lose and then end up with no conservation gain at all. This is a very difficult situation given that no loss of blue swallows should be tolerated. The reality is, however, that the dam development will go ahead and so we must ensure there is an overall conservation gain despite a potentially significant loss of at least one blue swallow nest due to it being inundated by the dam development. There are some issues with the offset study and the suggested approach and budgets recommended by the consultants and this will be highlighted in comments submitted.  Conservation Outcomes met with the manager at Tillietudlem (Bazil Roth) to finalise and ensure the accuracy of the property descriptions needed for the declaration agreement.

Supporting Biodiversity Stewardship

Dale Wright met with Daniel Marnewick and Candice Stevens to further plans regarding the “Alternative mechanisms for land protection” project, specifically discussing the criteria which will be applied to review the new and emerging mechanisms in the South African conservation landscape. Dale continued to finalise the review criteria required in this project and began work on a legal opinion terms of reference for the review of specific mechanisms. 

Karoo Research and Conservation Project

Dr Alan Lee has been continuing with field surveys in the 2nd leg of the Karoo birds research project. In his latest blog he reports on the hardships of farming in the arid Bushmanland region http://bluehillescape.blogspot.com/2018/08/of-miracles-and-misery-in-bushmanland.html. Dale Wright provided inputs to a manuscript which Alan and colleagues are drafting on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas (fracking) on birds of the Karoo.

IBA/KBAs and bird data and Spatial planning Project

Ernst Retief did an extensive review of literature for the project to determine the effectiveness of the formal protected areas network to conserve birds. He also began work to revise the methodology based on the review.

Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs)

Daniel Marnewick, Candice Stevens and Romy Antrobus-Wuth launched an exciting new project in collaboration with the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) Task Force on ‘Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures’ (OECMs). This project will look at assessing the extent of effective conservation outside protected area networks in South Africa, developing a methodology for other country-level assessments and identification, and informing the post-2020 Biodiversity Framework. The initial project planning as well as discussions with key stakeholders, such as The Department of Environmental Affairs and SANBI, has commenced.


Final arrangements were made this week for the IBA Programme’s annual team meeting, which is to be attended by the team as well as representatives from the Policy and Advocacy and Terrestrial Bird Conservation Programmes, at Kurisa Moya early next week. 




Candice Stevens travelled to Nelspruit this week to provide input at the SANParks workshop on protected area and buffer zone governance. Candice also worked on the country review for OECMs project. Additionally, Candice dealt with a number of BirdLife South Africa’s legal engagements. She also hosted the first informal team chat for staff engaging in controversial policy topics.


Jonathan Booth engaged with EKZN Wildlife with regards to the uMkhomazi Water Project (including the Smithfield Dam) and the threat that it poses to Blue Swallows in the KZN Midlands (one nest and feeding grounds will be flooded), and reviewed applicable EIA and Biodiversity Offset documentation. Unfortunately the construction of the dam is a near certainty, BirdLife South Africa will be working to ensure that the resulting Biodiversity Offset is adequate to significantly contribute to future Blue Swallow conservation. Jonathan also spent time preparing content for the forthcoming updated BirdLife South Africa website and met with the National Business Initiative (NBI) with regards to possibly collaborating on a project. 



Martin Taylor was out of the office for the majority of the week, having spent the majority of the week travelling to and attending the (British) Birdfair at Rutland, United Kingdom. Meetings were held with South Africa Tourism in London.



Mark Anderson held several meetings, including with Yolan Friedmann (CEO of the EWT) and with Friends of Hugh Wyndham Park. Mark and Fanie du Plessis met with Arthur Plint (a member of our Audit & Risk Committee) about the implementation of internal controls at BirdLife South Africa. The monthly Board of Directors meeting was held on Wednesday. Mark, Fanie, Shireen Gould and Tanya Caldwell met with On the Dot regarding African Birdlife magazine distribution. Mark and Isabel Human spent Thursday and Friday in Cape Town with the Seabird Conservation Programme staff.